Oakland Gets a New Benchmark

The new pizzeria is in the former Desco space.


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Image courtesy of Benchmark

Fans of Benchmark Pizzeria in Kensington will be happy to learn that Benchmark now has a new Oakland location.

At this new restaurant — housed in a historic 19th-century structure on 9th Street near Washington Street, formerly occupied by the restaurant Desco — executive chef and co-owner Peter Swanson serves an Italian-Californian menu with seasonal flair.

The debut lunch menu includes — among other items — Caesar salad, strozzapreti Bolognese, focaccia with olive oil, a fried-chicken sandwich, fish and chips, and pizzas with such topping options as fried sage, sausage-and-mushroom, eggplant-and-ricotta, and littleneck clams-and-cayenne.

The debut dinner menu includes — also among other items — farro and roasted broccoli, duck confit and cabbage, braised short-rib ragú, Benchmark meatballs, spaghetti with Sea Island red peas, butterscotch pot de crème, and numerous pizzas. 

Benchmark's pizzas are both naturally leavened and wood-fired. Especially notable are the restaurant’s house-stretched cheese, pasta, and doughs made from sourdough starter with wild yeast. 

Benchmark Oakland's beverage selection includes an international wine list, assorted beers, and craft cocktails curated by Tamir Ben-Shalom of Bull Valley Roadhouse. 

Happy Hour, Monday through Friday from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., features special pricing on house wines and select beers, as well as small bites such as Cacio e Pepe Popcorn, Spicy Chicken Wings, and Anchovy Toast.

Before launching the original Benchmark Pizzeria in 2012, Swanson worked as lead line cook at Oliveto Cafe & Restaurant, then helped open Dopo — where he remained as sous chef for six years.

Assisting him in the kitchen is chef de cuisine Jennifer Moffitt, who most recently worked at Boot & Shoe Service. 

His wife, co-owner and operations manager Melissa Swanson worked at Oliveto for ten years and at Chez Panisse. She also helped operate her family's organic baby-food company.

Highlighting the Oakland space is nearly-century-old mosaic and tile flooring. A fifty-seat dining room designed by Oakland-based Said-Jon Eghbal in collaboration with the Swansons features wood-topped tables, an exhibition kitchen, huge windows, and framed photographs of actual benchmark markers, used in surveying. The zinc-topped bar has room for ten drinkers; sidewalk patio tables seat up to sixteen.

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